ART AND THE BODY: An observation about Malavika Rajnarayan's oeuvre

ART AND THE BODY: An observation about Malavika Rajnarayan's oeuvre


By Neha Sankhla

The human body has many riveting facets that have been experimented with to disseminate ideas and other qualities in the domain of art since time immemorial. Whether it's dance, where choreography makes full utilization of every part of the body; or theatre, where bodily movements and facial expressions together deliver an act; or be it visual art where the body either serves as a medium or the subject itself, in every age the human body has intrigued artists and audience to explore and experience its form, sexuality, identity and much more. Among such analogous artists, Malavika Rajnarayan's oeuvre too engages with human body, but as a subject.

Malavika Rajnarayan

Malavika Rajnarayan at Anant Art's 3 Solo Shows, IGNCA (March, 2018)

Through her unique interpretation, Malavika creates artworks that give a sense of powerful figural presence. She is fascinated by a multitude of sensibilities associated with the human figure. Elaborating on her approach towards the subject she says I am not really interested in the physicality of body and flesh. It is personhood that triggers my explorations and the human form allows me to stay close to our being. The figures try to embody a spirit of humanness and evoke ideas that may have to do with grace, strength, fragility, femininity, communion Therefore her figures are devoid of any societal marks of religion, race, and caste except for the representation and identity of women in her works. When one goes through her artworks, the dominant factor visible is a rendition of female leads either presented individually or as a collective. Being born in an educated and progressive family herself, Malavika presents her women with dauntless and confident personalities who are unafraid of the male gaze.

Little Whiffs of Defiance

Title: Little Whiffs of Defiance

It is also interesting to see that the presence or evocation of human body in her works is not the only chief element, but she is also equally inspired from nature, away from the hustle bustle of urbanization where she has spent more of her time. In her artworks, Malavika depicts natural settings or its appurtenances that reveal her inclination towards rural environs. Sometimes her affection for nature takes a centre stage and one can see animals and birds as protagonists of her paintings.

Dragonflies Cross

When Dragonflies Cross the Highway Bridge: recent works by Malavika Rajnarayan hosted by Anant Art at Twin Art Gallery 1, IGNCA (March 2018)

In her recent solo exhibition When Dragonflies Cross the Highway Bridge organized by Anant Art at Twin Art Gallery-1 (IGNCA, New Delhi), most of Malavika's paintings were smaller in size that could be the outcome of her fascination towards miniature painting traditions. This particular approach is even visible on large canvases where her figures retain their minuscule form. The various stylistic effects present in her works also extend to Mithila and Gond paintings, Chinese landscape paintings and Japanese woodcuts.

The culmination of all these stylistic and thematic influences gives rise to bright and colourful body of works that are pleasing to the eye. An ending quote by Malavika Rajnarayan:

Art is made to share ideas, to forge connections, to find new ways of understanding the world and to find other expressions that can replace struggle.


Title: Jaggaata

Click here to see Malavika Rajnarayan's Interview

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